Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Going Gluten Free

After almost 8 years of struggling with on again, off again abdominal pain, never know exactly what was going on in that digestive track of mine (and, being my mother's daughter, I am constantly curious about how the body works), I think I might have stumbled onto something: a gluten sensitivity. Coupled with outbreaks of eosinophilic gastroenteritis (such a fun word to say, not a fun condition to experience), it would make sense that I would have chronic symptoms (that seem pretty disconnected) along with seemingly acute abdominal pain.

How'd I figure this all out? Aside from seeing many doctors, I have been doing some testing of my own using dietary restrictions. I knew that every time I cut out gluten (usually along with a whole gamut of other foods), I would feel better. So for the last month I just cut out gluten, and have been feeling wonderful. Then I slipped up last Sunday, and devoured the last of some Cinnamon Toast Crunch for a 5am snack. Since I had already messed up, I decided to order my favorite, Eggs Florentine, for brunch (not the best, from Harvest Cafe; if you want amazing Eggs Florentine, go to Yolk). That night my stomach was completely distended, and for the next few days the abdominal pain returned, along with the fatigue I had experienced for so long.

I think that was a sign good enough for me.

So it's gluten free for me!

This new way of life will be hard for me, as I love baked goods, good dark beer, whisky, and all those other wonderful wheaty things. And maybe it isn't a definite, maybe I'll be able to tolerate gluten again soon. But for now I am going to embrace it.

To celebrate, here is the zucchini bread recipe I made Monday morning, which I compiled from several different recipes, but mainly this one from 101 Cookbooks:

1/2 cup sunflower seeds
zest of two lemons
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fine grain natural cane sugar or brown sugar, lightly packed
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium), skins on, squeeze some of the moisture out and then fluff it up again before using

3 cups gluten free flour mix (I used a mixture of Gluten Free Pantry All-Purpose Baking Flour and Namaste Foods Gluten Free Perfect Flour Blend

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon each of ground nutmeg, clove, and ginger

Loaf pans or muffin pans

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter the loaf pans, dust them with a bit of flour and set aside. Alternately, you can line the pans with a sheet of parchment. If you leave a couple inches hanging over the pan, it makes for easy removal after baking. Just grab the parchment "handles" and lift the zucchini bread right out.

In a small bowl combine the sunflower seeds, lemon zest, and ginger. Set aside.

In a mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again until mixture comes together and is no longer crumbly. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Stir in the vanilla and then the zucchini (low speed if you are using a mixer).

In a separate bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger. Add these dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, stirring between each addition.

By hand, fold in the sunflower seed, lemon zest, and crystalized ginger mixture. Save a bit of this to sprinkle on the tops of the zucchini loaves before baking for a bit of texture. Avoid over mixing the batter, it should be thick and moist, not unlike a butter cream frosting.

Divide the batter equally among the pans. Make sure it is level in the pans, by running a spatula over the top of each loaf. Bake for about 40 minutes on a middle oven rack. Remove from the oven and cool the zucchini bread in pan for about ten minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to finish cooling - if you leave them in their pans, they will get sweaty and moist (not in a good way) as they cool. After they are cooled completely, you can slice them up, put them in freezer bags, and freeze them.

The bread came out moist and delicious, and just the perfect bit of spicy. I enjoyed it with peanut butter and a bit of agave, but it would be good plain, or with a myriad of different toppings. Recently I made some prune butter. I'm sad that's all gone, because I bet it would have been wonderful.

Until next time...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Diverge to divulge in my love of the three R's

I've decided that I should go beyond just my love of cooking in this blog, and divulge occasionally in those other aspects that, if I had been born 30 years earlier, would make me a perfect housewife.

I have always been all for reducing and recycling (I was just telling a friend yesterday that one of the reasons I love my new phone, the HTC Evo, is because the only accessories that came with it were a USB cord and the plug to turn that into a charger. Thank god I won't ave to add more to my bag of old chargers and cords that were for who knows what.)

My favorite "R", however, is "reuse". Not only is reusing objects and materials a great way to help save the enviroment, but it also saves me money, and adds to my aesthetic of vintage, mismatched hominess. The easiest way I've found to reuse?


My makeup brushes live in mason jars, my pens sit in a flower pot I decoupaged with images from old magazines, and I store bulk quinoa I purchase at Whole Foods in an old chickpea tin. I actually got upset yesterday when I found out my friends threw away the Cafe du Monde tin that held the chicory coffee I gave them.

I'm sure The Container Store hates people like me.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Veggie ice creams...who would have thunk it?

My last week has been spent busily baking and ice cream making in hopes of some fulfillment. What fulfillment, I know not. I've been quickly falling into a serious health kick. I will always have my desserts, but those desserts now include honey or agave instead of processed sugar (though I'm not opposed to organic sugars). Ever since my friend Danika told me about how they make sugar so white, I've been completely mortified. I guess it just scares me to now know what exactly is in my food, and to think that something that I've used so often to make such delicious food is filtered with animal bones (that's right, folks, animal bones!) just creeps me out. I'm not even a vegetarian any more (though I usually lead a pretty vegetarian lifestyle), but I still am bothered by this news.I've especially been on a vegetable ice cream kick this past week. It started out with my roommate suggesting sweet potato pie ice cream (with the apple ginger glaze I had made for the muffins I had just made). Since I have cut out gluten for a bit, I did not want to use pie dough. I created a recipe from a combination of several recipes online, using canned chunks of sweet potato instead of pureed potato in hopes to make the ice cream a bit chunkier. The end product was less than desirable, with a weak potato taste and the unpleasant effect of the cream stuck to the roof of my mouth with every bit. After this failed experiment I have sworn to myself to only use tried and true recipes until I can become confident enough in my ice cream making skills.
I had been planning on making a coffee Heath Bar ice cream for my friend Matt (who should really have a cooking blog of his own,
and to whom I owe much of my skill and knowledge to), but when I went to the store yesterday sweet corn was newly in stock and on sale. I had read about sweet corn ice cream, and since it was nearing 4th of July weekend, I thought I might as well give it a try. Yet another mistake.
Several people had recommended a recipe from Epicurious, and I was very excited. I exchanging 3/4 cup sugar for just under 1/2 cup of honey, and adding a teaspoon of sea salt, which I had seen in another recipe. I am in love with sea salt. Matt taught me that when we crave salt, we are actually craving the minerals in salt. Iodized salt does not have these minerals. Anyway, back to the creation.
The first mini disaster came while cutting the corn off the cob, which caused kernels went everywhere. Always have a broom on standby while cooking.

Everything was going fairly smoothly, and I managed to add the 9 (whoa!) egg yolks to the milk mixture without them curdling. The recipe said to then stir the mixture constantly over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, but after about three minutes of this my eggs began to cook! I immediately took the mixture off the heat, but it was already too late...my beautiful custard was quickly turning into scrambled eggs. I didn't want to just toss it away, and it still tasted good, so I decided to go ahead and freeze it and see what happened. I tried to strain it through my french press, which did not work at all, and by this time I was so frustrated that I just put it in the fridge to cool off overnight, solids included. In the morning I froze the mix, and was not at all surprised when the ice cream came out with the texture and taste of creamed corn. I put it in a tupperware and decided to deal with it later.
I eventually slowly defrosted the ice cream, strained it through a better sieve, then re-froze it. The texture is now much better, but it still overpoweringly corn-y. I don't think it helps my opinion that I have disliked corn for some time now, owing to the overgrowth of the same strains we produce in America. I think it's just too damn American for me.
The two veggie ice creams with delicious gluten free brownies I made (will post more about that later). I didn't mind the sweet potato ice cream (on the left) with the brownies, but I still detested the corn.